Laos Travel Guide

Bucolic. Friendly. Unspoiled.

TWO WAYS TO EXPERIENCE LUXURY Laos TOURS

Group Trips
Custom Trips

Join a small group of like-minded fellow travelers on a perfectly crafted Laos luxury tour. Or create your own personalized, private departure for just you, your family and friends. See the possibilities at Custom Trips to Laos.

GET YOUR CUSTOM PLANNER

Like an architect creating your one-of-a-kind home, our Asia Travel Experts craft your personalized journey from the ground up. Your preference of destinations, pace, budget, dates, activities and lodging are skillfully arranged, down to the finest detail. Begin planning your custom luxury travel to Asia or the Pacific today!

Questions? Ready to start planning your trip?

CONTACT A LAOS TRAVEL EXPERT

Highlights

If this is your first Laos travel experience, there are some iconic cities, sites and destinations located throughout the country that are simply a must-see for first-time travel to Laos, which include Luang Prabang and its environs, and the capital Vientiane.

LUANG PRABANG

With its calm, quaint feel, meandering streets, glittering temples, smiling locals and lush surrounding hills, Luang Prabang is one of Asia's most alluring locales and an absolutely essential Laos travel destination.

With its calm, quaint feel, meandering streets, glittering temples, smiling locals and lush surrounding hills, Luang Prabang is one of Asia's most alluring locales and an absolutely essential Laos travel destination. Its small scale and intimate feel make it a perfect place to wander-from temples to handicraft shops, from the banks of the Mekong to a charming fountain-side café.

French colonial, art-deco and northern Lanna Thai structures comprise an exquisite and well-preserved architectural legacy: the town itself has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Outstanding temple architecture abounds, and stumbling upon a small shrine tucked away in an alley is one of the joys of this town. The most imposing temples are Wat Wisounalat, Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham, and Wat Xieng Thong, an exquisite 400-year-old royal monastery complex. Be sure to visit the former Royal Palace, now the National Museum. The Lao royal family lived here until 1975. Its collection includes lovely murals-in shimmering mosaics and in oil-of Lao life, and gifts from heads of state, including a moon rock from Richard Nixon, given in 1972 (ironically about the same time U.S. bombing of Laos reached its peak).

For a truly extraordinary Laos travel experience, rise before dawn for a chance to witness a moving ritual that embodies the essence of Old Southeast Asia: as long lines of barefoot monks walk silently along the streets on their morning alms rounds, watch locals offer alms. This represents a symbiosis in which rice sustains the monks' bodies, while the monks' prayers nourish the spirit of those giving the rice.

Note: please observe a respectful distance and silence while witnessing this ancient, sacred ceremony.

After a day of exploring, ascend the steps up Phu Si Hill to view the sunset over the Mekong. After dinner, wander through the bustling Night Market.

PAK OU CAVES

This mystical pilgrimage site is an easy day trip from Luang Prabang. Travel up the Mekong River by motorboat to access the caves. Through the centuries, kings, merchants and farmers have come here to worship, leaving behind more than 3,000 statues of the Buddha in homage.

This mystical pilgrimage site is an easy day trip from Luang Prabang. Travel up the Mekong River by motorboat to access the caves. Through the centuries, kings, merchants and farmers have come here to worship, leaving behind more than 3,000 statues of the Buddha in homage. A spiritual vibe emanates from this nature-made shrine.

Numerous small villages may be accessed by boat en route to or from the caves. Stop at a tranquil hamlet inhabited by the traditional Khamu people. Visit the village of Ban Phanom, famous for its silk textiles and handmade mulberry paper. A highlight of any trip to Laos is partaking in a traditional baci ceremony, in which villagers gently tie sacred strings of friendship and good fortune around the wrists of visitors.

VIENTIANE

With its gentle pace, sunny inhabitants, gleaming temples, whirring tuk-tuks (motorcycle rickshaws) and the charms of the winding Mekong, Vientiane is a delightful city to explore during your Laos tour.

With its gentle pace, sunny inhabitants, gleaming temples, whirring tuk-tuks (motorcycle rickshaws) and the charms of the winding Mekong, Vientiane is a delightful city to explore during your Laos tour. Eastern and western cultures converge to form an interesting architectural legacy that bears witness to Chinese, Thai, French and Soviet-era influences.

Of special interest are Wat Si Saket with its thousands of Buddha images, and Haw Pha Kaew, which is a museum of Lao antiquities. But the pièce de résistance is the gleaming gold Pha That Luang, at once a greatly revered Buddhist shrine and the national symbol of Laos. The morning market offers fine hand-loomed textiles and crafts as well as a colorful array of trinkets. Serious shoppers should visit Carol Cassidy's silk gallery. Stroll through the temple grounds by the Mekong, down the narrow streets lined with crumbling colonial buildings and have a sunset drink at one of the little bars overlooking the great river.

Adventures

Have more time, second trip to Laos, or looking for something specific? Here are some additional highlights when creating your custom Laos travel plan

THE NORTH

HILL TRIBE EXPLORATION

Wedged between Burma and Yunnan, this remote region of Laos is notable for its abundance of ethnic minority peoples and its rugged natural beauty. Among the colorful and unspoiled tribes are Hmong, Akha, Yao, Khamu, Lao Huay, Shan, Black Thai and Thai Lu.

HILL TRIBE EXPLORATION

Wedged between Burma and Yunnan, this remote region of Laos is notable for its abundance of ethnic minority peoples and its rugged natural beauty. Among the colorful and unspoiled tribes are Hmong, Akha, Yao, Khamu, Lao Huay, Shan, Black Thai and Thai Lu.

These unique pockets of humanity may well be some of the last holdouts against the tide of cultural homogenization in Asia. As modern means of transportation, satellite television and the Web converge to form an irrepressible wave of global culture that washes over our world, visiting these tribes represents what is surely a fading opportunity to witness a way of life that has existed in these mountains for millennia.

MUANG SING

Using the little town of Muang Sing as a base, make day-trips (by 4WD and on foot) into seldom-visited villages. The people in this area are influenced by the neighboring villages in China to the north, and strong Chinese cultural overtones make for fascinating insights into the similarities and differerences with the Lao people to the south.

LUANG NAM THA

Stay at a lovely eco-lodge run by friends of ours for a one-of-a-kind Laos vacation experience. By day access surrounding tribal villages, and return in the evening to enjoy authentic gourmet cuisine in the open-air restaurant while watching life by the river.

MUANG LA

This village is highly recommended for those who yearn to stray far from the tourist ruts into the traditional culture of ancient Laos, yet savor fine accommodations and delicious, authentic cuisine. Of of Asia's hidden jewels (mums the word, this is our find), it is an oasis of tranquility, tradtional tribal cultures and lush fields. It is best explored on a 4 day/3 night boat trip from Luang Prabang on the gorgeous Nam Ou River which, at points along the way, features stunning scenary of limestone karst that juts 2,000 feet into the air from the river's edge. Our all-time favorite route begins in Luang Prabang, then heads to northeast to Nong Khiaw by private boat. From there it's over to Muang Khua then on to Muang La for an idyllic two-night stay. Return to Luang Prabang by private car.

THE CENTRAL REGION

VANG VIENG

This sleepy town a few hours from Vientiane is a delightful place for day hikes or a lazy afternoon on the river in a pirogue (canoe made from a hollowed tree trunk). The area is notable for its dramatic karst topography and many deep caves. There is a small resort here with simple bungalows.

PONSAVAN/PLAIN OF JARS

A stark and beautiful place scarred by terrible bombing from the U.S.-led war, there are thousands of stone jars scattered over a huge area-some weighing over a ton-that have mystified archaeologists for years. Though there's still no conclusive evidence as to their origin or purpose, recent research points to their being used as burial urns. Local legends say the urns were used as rice-wine cups by a race of giants. This area has long been the center of a thriving Hmong culture and it's possible to stop and hike to a fascinating mountaintop village on your Laos tour.

THE SOUTH

SAVANNAKHET & THA KHAEK

Known to locals as Savan, this bustling riverfront town handles much of the burgeoning trade between Thailand and Vietnam. Nearby That Ing Hang is one of the most revered shrines in southern Laos.

SAVANNAKHET & THA KHAEK

Known to locals as Savan, this bustling riverfront town handles much of the burgeoning trade between Thailand and Vietnam. Nearby That Ing Hang is one of the most revered shrines in southern Laos.

Tha Khaek was a French garrison town early in the century and then a gambling center before the Revolution of 1975. A fascinating stop on your tour of Laos, it still has a great deal of colonial charm with pretty views of the river and striking limestone formations.

CHAMPASAK & KHONG ISLAND

A historic province, which was once an independent Lao kingdom, is home to the impressive 1,000-year-old Khmer ruins of Wat Phu Champasak, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site, on a hilltop overlooking the Mekong, is spectacular. Spend a dreamy afternoon on your Laos tour traveling by boat from Wat Phu Champasak to Khong Island through lovely scenery into Si Phan Don "The Four Thousand Islands." Close to the Cambodian border are the mighty Khong Phapheng Falls and a peaceful stretch of river where Irrawaddy dolphins may be seen.

BOLAVEN PLATEAU

This fertile plateau has a pleasant climate and numerous plantations growing coffee, rubber, bananas and cardamom. It's possible to hike (or travel by elephant) to nearby ethnic villages inhabited by primitive Mon-Khmer people such as the Alak, Suay, Bru and Katu, some of whom still tattoo their faces. Stay in a bungalow perched above a pretty waterfall and swim in the pools below.

Questions? Ready to start planning your trip?

CONTACT A LAOS TRAVEL EXPERT

DON’T FORGET TO PIN IT!

We want to make it easy for you to keep track of the regions you want to visit! When you find a region from one of our many Asia destinations, simply hit the pin button on bottom right corner and we’ll save it to your Must See page!

GOT IT!
popup-online-catalog
Start your adventure